...Since July 1, 53 vehicles - 39 scooters and 14 motorcycles - have been swiped from sidewalks in Old City, Bella Vista, Queen Village, and other areas. Thirteen have been recovered, 10 in Camden.
Scooter thieves use bolt cutters to snip chains and typically load the vehicles into work vans, passenger vans, or box trucks.
Most of the thefts have been committed between 12:01 and 5 a.m., and police have captured video of thieves in two incidents: in the 400 block of Fairmount Avenue and the 100 block of Church Street.
Each video shows two men, one about 40, wearing a "long bandanna," police said. In one video, they are driving a white van; in the other, a white box truck. Both vehicles had New Jersey plates.
"If it's not the same crew, it's a group of crews that were doing it. It's a bunch of guys doing the same thing," Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said.
Victims say the thieves are quick to pick up scooters and leave without a trace. A waitress at a Center City restaurant who left her scooter outside work with its steering column locked said it was taken after midnight. She said she "went inside and came out minutes later and it was gone."
Brendon Baker of Center City said his unlocked scooter was taken from outside his apartment building in June. He gave up hope of finding it about a month later and bought a new one.
In summer 2011, Evers said, police dealt with a string of similar scooter thefts, although not as extensive as this year's wave.
He said scooters are lightweight, fairly easy to transport, and a quick sell on the street as a cheap mode of transportation in cash-strapped times.
"There's value on the street for them," Evers said.
Tipsters can watch the surveillance videos at the Philadelphia police YouTube channel or visit phillypolice.com/news. Anyone with information on the thefts can call the department's tip line at 215-686-8477 or text 773847. Tipsters can also call the Major Crime Unit's auto squad at 215-685-9133.